Looking back on the Iraq War

The 10th anniversary of the beginning of the invasion of Iraq should prompt some serious reflection. Judging by the Dick Cheney documentary, some of those most responsible for that disaster have done little reflection and, indeed, don’t even appear to recognize how much damage that misadventure caused, and continues to perpetuate. Just for fun, I looked up what I wrote when the war started. Unfortunately, more of my fears came true than hopes were realized. But even in my worst imaginings, I don’t think I foresaw just how bad it would be: how long it would last; how many casualties it would cost, how much money we would throw away.

I certainly hope that the next time the nation makes a decision to go to war, as opposed to having one thrust upon us, we’ll give a bit more weight to the dissenters, think a little harder about the “evidence” used to sell the war and question our leaders far more insistently. And I hope this nation never again falls into the trap of a “pre-emptive war” launched before a threat is genuinely identified, much less imminent.

You can read the column after the jump.

War in Iraq: Hoping for the best while fearing the worst

Publication: THE CHARLESTON GAZETTE
Published: Friday, March 21, 2003
Page: P4A
Byline: Dan Radmacher

AS the U.S. invasion of Iraq begins, I find myself teeter-tottering between hope and fear.

I hope that the war will be quick and that civilian casualties will be minimal. I fear that the war will be prolonged and that the military’s best efforts to avoid “collateral damage” won’t be successful.

I hope that Saddam Hussein, backed into a corner with no conceivable hope of victory, won’t unleash the weapons of mass destruction President George W. Bush insists he has against our troops, his own people or Israel. I fear that he will.

I hope that Saddam won’t decide to transfer those weapons of mass destruction that Bush insists he has to al-Qaida or other terrorist groups. I fear that, with nothing left to lose, he will.

I hope that our government and others are fully prepared to stop attacks by terrorists who have been waiting until the war begins to strike. I fear that no government can stop every terror plot, and that some horrific blow will be struck against the United States any day.

I hope that President Bush is right, and that a U.S.-forced “regime change” in Iraq will provide a model for peace and democracy in the Middle East, and perhaps even lead to peace between Israel and Palestine. I fear that is a pipe dream, and that the U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq will inflame anti-American sentiment in the region and confirm Arab suspicions of an imperial United States.

I hope that President Bush’s ambitious timetable to reconstruct Iraq within a year is realistic, and that his plan to establish a democracy that will allow participation by Iraq’s various minorities will work as smoothly as planned. I fear that a “liberated” Iraq will soon become another Yugoslavia, ripped apart by ethnic strife and ancient animosity that will soon spread to neighboring countries.

I hope that a quick, successful war and reconstruction will help the U.S. economy rebound with the end of the uncertainty that has deterred business investment and consumer spending. I fear that apprehension and uncertainty about the war’s effect will cripple already ailing industries, like the airlines.

I hope that deposing Saddam from power will make America safer and more secure. I fear that the action against Iraq plays right into Osama bin Laden’s hands, and will become the best terrorist recruitment tool he could possibly dream of.

I hope that tattered alliances strained by Bush and Co.’s arrogant and condescending attitude toward longtime friends and partners can be repaired once the war is finished. I fear that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the Bush administration have unwittingly obliterated the global goodwill and sympathy toward America generated by 9/11.

I hope that the war uncovers conclusive evidence that Saddam has been stockpiling chemical and biological weapons, and perhaps even collaborated with members of al-Qaida. I fear that no such evidence will be discovered, and the U.S. justification for the war will seem as tenuous afterward as it did before.

There are some who believe that, as actual fighting begins, people should focus on the hopes, not the fears. The time for discussion and dissent is over, they argue. People like Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines should just keep their mouths shut now instead of criticizing President Bush.

As one enraged radio listener in Savannah, Ga., said about the Dixie Chicks, “I guess it really angered me because we really support our troops and we’re going through a tough time right now and everybody should back them all the way.” That irony-challenged protester is organizing a bonfire to burn Dixie Chicks music.

Personally, I don’t believe that the beginning of a war should mean the end of dissent. I don’t see how it is “supporting our troops” to fall silent while those troops are sent into harm’s way.

Blind patriotism spawns nationalism, which spawns horrors like Adolph Hitler and the Holocaust.

Besides, dissenters – even wartime dissenters – often are right. Many of those protesting the Vietnam War certainly were doing more to support the troops than the politicians who continued a war they knew was being fought for all the wrong reasons and was essentially unwinnable.

So, I’ll continue to hope for the best, fear the worst and exercise my right as an American to speak my mind.

Radmacher is the Gazette’s editorial page editor. He can be reached at 348-5150, or by e-mail at danrad@wvgazette.com.

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